Ten years after adopting the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, the United Nations General Assembly gathered young representatives from across the world to evaluate how the plan has fared.
Welcoming the delegates between the ages of 15 and 24 this morning, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette challenged them to help overcome the world's ills, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and hunger, for a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous future.
"We are gathered here because we know that young people are our future," she told the mixed audience of General Assembly members and 48 youth delegates from two dozen countries. "They will inherit what we create in our time, both good and bad," she added.
Noting that almost half the world's population is under the age of 25, she said that they will have to deal with the challenges before them, including 200 million youth living in poverty, 130 million illiterate, 88 million unemployed and 10 million living with HIV/AIDS.
She also mentioned the "distressing statistics" that a quarter of all children living in the developing world are malnourished, as are half of all children in Sub-Saharan African and Southern Asia. Hundreds of millions of children are not in school, and 11 million under the age of five die each year from preventable diseases, she said.
Among the young people addressing the meeting, Sweden's representative, Hanna Hallin, asked delegations to imagine a world where millions of people did not die before the age of 20 as a result of poverty, pregnancy, conflict, lack of health services or HIV/AIDS; and where young women and men were able to read, obtain decent work with a decent salary, seek their identity without fear of discrimination, and make their voices heard.
She said young people were being marginalized when governments did not respect their right to health, education and decent work, or when they were not allowed to express their sexual, religious or indigenous identity without fear for their lives.
The World Programme of Action for Youth is considered the first "global blueprint" for developing effective policies for young people. The General Assembly is now considering a draft resolution on the issue which would urge Governments, in consultation with youth organizations, to develop holistic and integrated polices based on the World Programme and to evaluate them regularly as part of follow-up action on the Programme's implementation.